The event at the Under Armour campus in Baltimore played out like a fashion show and felt like a pep rally — replete with a standing-room-only crowd, bass-pumping music, thundersticks, Ravens cheerleaders and dance moves by mascot Poe.
The end result, though, was all charity.
With one athlete from each team acting as a model, Under Armour and the Ravens on Wednesday revealed the new uniforms they're donating to the varsity football and girls basketball programs of all 24 Baltimore public high schools. Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who got by far the biggest applause of the afternoon, served as the keynote speaker for the event.
"You guys are our future," Lewis told the audience before the uniforms were brought out. "The next president, the next superstar, is sitting in these seats. Take these uniforms, and understand what they're for: They're for the next generation. Wear them with pride, but don't cheat 'em.
"Because every time you put it on, you represent something much greater than you — Baltimore, pride, family, loyalty, respect."
Wednesday's unveiling was the culmination of a project first announced during the Ravens' visit to the White House in June 2013 after their Super Bowl XLVII victory.
Lewis, who retired after that Super Bowl win, mentioned during his speech Wednesday that, when he joined his first football team in 1985, his mother couldn't afford a jersey for him. But Lewis' coach paid the fee for him — $15 — and handed him No. 85. It was that first uniform, Lewis said, that spurred him on to want to make it to the NFL.
Going forward, he hopes, Baltimore public-school players will be able to feel the same inspiration.
Last year's jerseys "were all right, but they weren't that nice because they were older uniforms," said Maurice Robinson, a rising senior defensive back at Maritime Industries Academy. "They were ripped. These ones are a lot better."
Tina Queen, Frederick Douglass' athletic director and women's basketball coach, explained that Under Armour and the Ravens initially approached Baltimore City Public Schools officials in athletics to see how they could help out with football. Girls basketball later was added "to make sure it was equitable," Queen said.
The funds came from Under Armour and the Ravens Foundation, which also organizes annual equipment grants for area youth football teams.
Both home and away uniforms will be donated for each program, although just one version was modeled on Wednesday. The schools' representatives all were introduced by Matt Mirchin, Under Armour's executive vice president of global marketing, before shaking the hands of Lewis and Baltimore City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton.
Thornton called it "a big day in our city."
"From the looks of the uniforms, they [seem] well made. They're everything that these kids want," Queen said. "This is one of those days that you dream of."
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